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Disabilities Advocates Fight Bush Section 8 Proposal

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DISABILITIES ADVOCATES FIGHT BUSH SECTION 8 PROPOSAL-HON. BARNEY FRANK (Extensions of Remarks - March 26, 2004)

HON. BARNEY FRANK
OF MASSACHUSETTS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2004

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, the Administration proposal for a drastic reduction in the ability of the Section 8 program to help people in need has caused a great deal of dismay, especially among those organizations that exist to provide services to the most vulnerable in our society. On March 22, a broad and inclusive coalition of people concerned with people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and others who have legitimate need for assistance sent a very thoughtful letter to the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, expressing their strong disagreement with this proposal. As the coalition notes, the funding level proposed by the Administration would mean that "approximately 250,000 low income families with children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities could lose their vouchers."

Mr. Speaker, this will be one of the most important issues on which this House will vote this year, and I ask that this very thoughtful letter by this broad range of groups be printed here for the benefit of the Members who will have to vote on this.

March 22, 2004.

Hon. C. W. BILL YOUNG,

Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, Washington, DC.

DEAR CHAIRMAN YOUNG: The undersigned groups are writing to express our strong opposition to the severe cut to
the Section 8 voucher program in the HUD Fiscal Year 2005 budget. The President's request for the voucher program is more than $1.6 billion short of fully funding all vouchers in use. At this funding level, approximately 250,000 low income families with children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities could lose their vouchers.

This shortfall comes at a time when a recent analysis of the American Housing Survey reveals 31 percent of all households had housing problems in 2001. Now is not the time to cut the funding for a housing program that has served as the "linchpin" of our federal housing policy for the last two decades.

We also urge you to oppose the proposed Flexible Voucher Program that would make significant changes in the program's structure. The proposed changes would create a block grant program and eliminate many of the long-standing rules that benefit low income families. Under the proposed block grant, PHAs would receive a lump sum that would not be adequate to serve all current voucher holders. The elimination of statutory requirements including targeting the program to the lowest income families and ending the requirement that tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income for their rent could have a devastating effect on families across the nation.

The Administration has expressed concern about the growth in costs of the voucher program. This increase was largely the result of rising utilization rates, expansion of the voucher program by Congress, and the widening gap between rental housing costs and family incomes in recent years. However, a recent study by CBO projects that the growth rate of Section 8 expenditures will slow to 1.8 percent in fiscal year 2005. They also project the costs to continue to level off because of the cooling of the housing market as well as increases in wages as the economy recovers.

The Section 8 voucher program is an effective and critical resource. Housing assistance is needed by the many low income families with children, elderly, people with disabilities, and victims of domestic violence who would not have safe, decent, and affordable housing without it. Housing authorities cannot be expected to do more with inadequate resources. We respectfully urge you to provide the necessary funding for all existing vouchers and reject HUD's plan to dismantle the housing voucher program.
Sincerely,

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